Kobe vs. LeBron: Can Kobe's Fans Finally Give a Little Credit Where It's Due?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 23, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat and the Eastern Conference and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference talk on court late in the second half during the 2012 NBA All-Star Game at the Amway Center on February 26, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I've always admired Miami Heat forward LeBron James' talent on the basketball court, but I wouldn't call myself one of James' biggest fans.

My dislike of LeBron has nothing to do with his game and would be considered a very subjective opinion by anyone who heard it. However, there was nothing subjective about James' and the Heat's dizzying journey to the top of the league's hierarchy.

Miami's resounding 4-1 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder finally secured James his first elusive title, and it also cemented his status as the best player in the game right now.

James completed the rare trifecta of winning the league's MVP award, Finals' MVP award and the championship, while posting ridiculous playoff averages of 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 50 percent shooting from the field along the way.

None of those numbers changes my opinion about James' arrogance or attitude, but they do give me a newfound respect for what James just accomplished and what he might in the future.

Some fans have yet to give a gracious nod in James' direction, and there will be legions of people who never will. But are Lakers fans generally, and Kobe Bryant fans specifically, included in that unofficial tally?

One of the first people I talked to after Miami's win in Game 5 was my cousin who is a huge Lakers and Bryant fan. I asked him what he thought about LeBron's historic postseason performance, and he responded with an expletive I can't reprint here, followed by his opinion that James was still a bum.

None of his criticism was based on anything that transpired on the court, and his mini-rant was oddly followed by a comparison to Kobe.

And my cousin is not the last Lakers or Kobe fan I have talked to who seems threatened by James' first ring and unwilling to lavish any praise where it's due.

Kobe is also my favorite player in the NBA, and the Lakers are my favorite team, but I let go of the theory that Bryant was still the league's best player some time ago.

A number of Lakers fans have refused to follow this path, and their stubbornness has prevented them from appreciating James' growth as a player.

James' first NBA title does not diminish anything Kobe has achieved through the years, but it certainly does make the argument a little more interesting.

In the aftermath of Miami's victory, I have heard James' legacy compared to Kobe's as well as Michael Jordan's, and in truth, he's not there yet. But James can be.

Before the 2012 NBA Finals, I theorized that if James was going to win his first ring, then now would be the best time to catch the young Thunder and their talented core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Boy, was I wrong.

James has quenched his thirst for his first career ring, but will the experience make him complacent or hungrier?

Everything in James' body language suggests he would enjoy standing on this stage a few more times before his career is over, and if he can remanufacture his showing from this season's playoffs, or even a more scary thought, actually improve, just who exactly can prevent James from accomplishing his goals?

I will undoubtedly be called a traitor by some for acknowledging James' first championship-legacy stamp on his career notebook, but as a Kobe fan and Lakers follower, I'm definitely used to the criticism.

However, no matter how much I dislike James, it will not change the circumstances of what he accomplished in the postseason.

Instead of wasting energy finding new ways to denigrate James' newfound success, fans of the game should take a second to appreciate the player whom he is.

And that includes Kobe's fans as well, especially since they are no strangers to the different factions who refuse to recognize greatness, even if it slaps them in the face.


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